An Auckland cheerleading gym knowingly hired a child sex offender to work on events, saying it believes in second chances and did not want to discriminate against him for his previous convictions.
The revelations have sparked condemnation, with the head of the sport's governing body saying she believes they are "morally reprehensible" for hiring the sex predator to work with children.
Convicted paedophile Nikola Michael Marinovich, 34, pleaded guilty yesterday to seven representative Customs charges for possessing, distributing and making thousands of objectionable child abuse images and videos.
The freelance cameraman, who worked on children's television show What Now and a raft of other children's events thanks to lax police vetting, was remanded in custody for sentencing in September.
The judge warned that imprisonment was "inevitable" given Marinovich's previous convictions.
His guilty pleas mean the Herald can finally reveal that Marinovich is a former cheerleading coach who was jailed in 2013 for repeatedly abusing his underage students after plying them with spirits then assaulting them in his car and home.
When Customs officers raided his home in May last year, they discovered thousands of objectionable child abuse files, along with girls' underwear, school uniforms and cheerleading outfits.
Marinovich is the former executive director of the now defunct Total Cheerleading in West Auckland, where he worked with Andrei Coman. Coman now runs Cheer Dynamix.
Despite knowledge of Marinovich's criminal history, Coman has admitted hiring the convicted paedophile as a contractor at six cheerleading events between 2016 and 2018.
After Herald inquiries, Coman's lawyers at Rice Craig sent a cease and desist letter on July 13 to several cheerleading organisations which had made comments about his connections with Marinovich.
The letter said Coman engaged Marinovich "purely for his professional role" as a freelance videographer and technician.
"Our client being an equal opportunity provider engages contractors on merit, even those who may have had some history but have been duly allowed to integrate back into the community.
"Failing to do so would obviously be a form of discrimination towards this group of people. It is therefore unfair to our client to be held blameworthy for being an equal opportunity provider."
The letter added there had been no reported incidents or complaints arising from Marinovich's engagement.
It also warned the organisations to immediately desist from making further statements about Coman or his companies or he would pursue "all legal remedies including monetary damages and other relief".
The Herald asked Coman why he had knowingly hired a child sex offender to work at cheerleading events run by his company CheerSport NZ and whether young athletes and their parents had been informed about the man's presence.
In a written statement Coman confirmed hiring Marinovich and admitted it was wrong.
"When Nikola first started working for us, he disclosed to us that he had a previous criminal conviction in 2013, namely a charge of unlawful sexual connection with someone under the age of 16.
"He had served his sentence and appeared to be working hard to reintegrate himself as a good and contributing member of the community. He denied being on a Sex Offenders Register.
"As an employer I like to provide equal employment opportunities and work with people based on their skill and merits, without discrimination."
Coman said he had "no reason to believe that Nikola had the propensity to reoffend on the basis of his previous conviction", but had put strict measures in place to ensure children's safety, particularly around supervision.
"I see now that I was wrong to engage him given his previous history and I apologise unreservedly for doing so.
"I recognise that our athletes and their safety is what is most important in all of this.
"With the benefit of hindsight, and in line with our policy to put safety first, we will be putting in place stringent parameters around the people we employ, including freelance contractors we engage on casual basis."
Kimberley Ramsay, president of the sport's national governing body, New Zealand Cheerleading Association, said her organisation fought hard to ensure the safety of children in the sport.
"I think it is morally reprehensible that Andrei would knowingly hire a convicted child sex offender to again work with children."
She was also shocked to learn that rival cheerleading group New Zealand Cheer Union (NZCU) had hired Marinovich to film at their national competitions.
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"We will be removing our association with the NZCU and will not sanction any future NZCU competitions."
Despite bail conditions preventing contact with children, Marinovich was hired to film the NZCU national finals in Wellington last year while awaiting trial.
Union boss Selena Duncan said she felt physically sick after learning of Marinovich's background from the Herald. She said the union was unaware of his previous convictions at the time.
The organisation had stringent child protection policies, however Marinovich did not appear to have been vetted.
The union had commissioned an independent review to investigate what had occurred and apologised to athletes and parents.
"We're looking into how that happened.
"It's making me feel quite nauseous."